With first-cutting yields rebounding thanks to abundant rains across much of Michigan, hay prices there have tapered off from last year’s drought-driven highs. Even so, it could be awhile before they return to pre-2012 levels, says Jerry Lindquist, Extension educator with Michigan State University.
Factors he lists as likely to slow the price decline include:
- The total carryover supply of hay in Michigan coming out of the winter was the lowest in the last 50 years. "Most hay barns were empty."
- Hay acres are at the lowest levels in recent times, as many sod fields have been planted to row crops because of the high market prices for grain.
- Poor June hay baling weather caused growers to chop some hay intended for baling.
- Reports of severe alfalfa winterkill in Wisconsin and Minnesota will place some demand on Michigan hay supplies.
- Alternative feed prices, including grains, are staying relatively high.
Buyer reaction to the supply situation has been mixed. “Some buyers have drought phobia and are willing to pay as much as they did last winter for hay,” notes Lindquist.
On the flip side, prices have moderated slightly for lower-quality, first-cut alfalfa-grass hays. “Those hays in round-bale packages are bringing $120-180/ton. In big- and small-square bale packages, this same type of hay is bringing $135-245/ton.”
High-quality alfalfa hays are still in very short supply and are bringing $200-320/ton – with not much of a price difference between the round and square bales.
Lindquist reminds buyers and sellers that MSU’s Michigan Hay Sellers List can be a good resource for keeping track of hay prices.